Conversation with Eliam Medina on Above the Law

Conversation with Eliam Medina on Above the Law
  • Eliam, glad to have a chance to catch up with you.  Now although you have an impressive resume, you were never a lawyer.  What caused you to leave your cushy job to start a company that makes it easier for people to write their wills?

  • Hello, Zach. Thank you for having me.

    Last year, my aunt was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I spent a month with her in the hospital and helped get her affairs in order. The incident inspired me to do the same for my family.

    I was surprised to learn how complicated, expensive and time consuming the entire process was. Because of this, less than half of adults have a will - leaving their families with difficult decisions at the worst possible time.

    So, I started collaborating with estate planning attorneys to make end of life planning easier and more affordable for everyone.

    We are actively looking to add an attorney from a top tier law school to our team in Miami, so anyone interested should definitely reach out via LinkedIn.
  • Ok, but how difficult is it to make a will? Can't you do this using Rocket Lawyer or LegalZoom?

  • Very good question.

    There are two main ways to make a will: hiring an attorney or doing it yourself.

    Ideally, everyone would get personalized advice from a trusted estate planning attorney. The challenge here is that most people don't know an attorney they can trust and afford.

    Online will making software has been around for 15 years. However, even after all that time, less than 10% of wills are made online. These options are difficult to use and understand.

    So, more than 100M people do nothing.

    Willing is the first service that lets you create a legally valid will for free in under 10 minutes. We have an intuitive user interface that captures your wishes and instantly turns them into legally valid documents based on the laws of your state.
  • Okay, so I actually made a will today with Willing, but I also played around with LegalZoom a bit to see the difference (I didn't have the patience to mess with Rocket Lawyer -- two wills in one day is plenty!).  

    There is no question that Willing's process is easier, but it's not like Legal Zoom and Rocket Lawyer are awful, they're just not quite as easy as Willing. 

    What makes Willing more than a free, more intuitive version of LegalZoom?

  • Willing's mission is to make end of life planning easier, more affordable and approachable. Drafting legal documents is certainly an important part of that, but so is ensuring your loved ones are aware of your wishes and helping plan your final arrangements.

    Your account on Willing is free for life, so you can make changes any time and we instantly notify guardians and executors so they know what to do when the time comes. We are also working on ways to make the service even more useful to you and your loved ones.

    The company you mentioned focuses only on legal document drafting, charges separate fees each time a document is updated and does not let you see your documents for several days.

    So, a typical family will end up spending $350 on documents they won't receive for 7-10 days.

  • Meaning, for Willing the document drafting is merely the first step in the process, and by making the entire process easier more people will plan for their death.

    Do you think there are certain people who simply don't want to plan for death, and wouldn't do it even if it were free and easy? Many people simply don't like to plan for worst case scenarios, whether it's divorce, death, illness etc.  

  • It's interesting. We've found that while this is definitely a difficult topic, most people recognize the importance of making a plan.

    We've been surprised by how proactive people are when you eliminate the cost and complexity barriers. By working with some of the country's best estate planning law firms, we're able to bring their collective knowledge to anyone in under 10 minutes.

    Willing's unique combination of law, technology and design is really resonating with people.

    We announced our service publicly less than a month ago and are already on track to create 10,000 wills. We get emails every day from customers telling us they've been putting this off for years and are relieved to finally have a plan in place.

    We've also been contacted by attorneys who want to use Willing to create wills for their clients.

    There's no doubt this is a difficult problem, but it's one we are excited to be solving.

  • What does the success of Willing mean for mean for trust and estate lawyers?
  • Despite the fact only half of adults have a will, estate planning is a $5B industry.

    Our research shows we are dramatically expanding the market for estate planning services. More than 90% of customers who use Willing have never made a will. Almost 70% own a home that is subject to probate.

    As we grow, we'd like to partner with attorneys who could provide our customers personalized legal advice and more complex services such as revocable living trusts.

    Most trust and estate attorneys we speak with share our vision and are really excited to partner with us. Others, serve a higher end clientele who would never use an online service.

    It's a huge market and we are partnering with attorneys to make it more accessible to a larger audience.

  • One of the commenters brought up this point and I was going to ask as well, what is the problem with not having a will? As I recall from the Bar, property passes intestate to your family.  

    Meaning, is it really that bad that over 50% of Americans don't have wills?

  • Getting your affairs in order has many benefits that go beyond what is provided for by intestacy laws.

    Regarding the will specifically, there are three main benefits:
    1 - Who gets your property - Not everyone wants their property to pass according to the intestacy laws in their state.

    2 - Independent administration - Many states allow for independent administration if it is provided for in the will, which dramatically reduces the cost and complexity of probating an estate.

    3 - Guardianship - Most people with minor children feel strongly about selecting who will care for their children if they needed a guardian.

    Not to mention the additional benefits of creating a living will and planning your final arrangements.